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UPDATE: Business owners look to re-energize downtown

Friday Customer Appreciation Day first step in renewed effort

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A woman walks past Alan Galvez Insurance where a sign hangs in the window advertising Friday’s Customer Appreciation Day being put on by downtown businesses, which are reorganizing a downtown business association. (EXAMINER PHOTO | REUBEN MEES)

Three anniversaries being celebrated

In addition to Friday being a day to recognize customers, three downtown business owners will celebrate milestone anniversaries.

For Bev Goff of Education Station, 136 S. Main St., and Jack Reser of Lee’s Comfort Shoes, 109 N. Main St., June marks the 30th anniversary of their businesses, while Alan Galvez of Alan Galvez Insurance Agency, 134 W. Columbus Ave., is marking 25 years having a downtown storefront.

Ms. Goff began her business about June 1, 1983, after leaving her job as a teacher in the Indian Lake School District.

“I needed a break from teaching, so I moved to Florida with some friends and no real plan,” she said. “I got a job working in a store similar to this one and that’s when I decided I wanted to open a business here.”

The store has been selling educational supplies since.

“I’ve enjoyed my time in business here. I feel I have provided a worthwhile service to the community and schools,” Ms. Goff said. “When I first opened it was basically a teachers’ store, but now it’s more a store for parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles, too.”

Mr. Reser also said he began his business in a somewhat happenstance fashion after making a wrong turn out of Kenton.

He was visiting his brother there while attending college at The Ohio State University, and instead of taking the road to Marysville, he ended up heading south on U.S. Route 68.

When he stopped in Bellefontaine to visit shoe store owner John Neumeier, who was a family friend, Mr. Reser learned the business was being sold in bankruptcy court. With a father and grandfather already in the shoe business, Mr. Reser bought the business and opened June 13, shortly after his college graduation.

“We opened as a third generation in the business all because I made a wrong turn out of Kenton,” Mr. Reser said.

Mr. Galvez had been in the insurance game 18 years before investing in a downtown storefront that opened June 14.

As part of his celebration at Friday’s Customer Appreciation Day, the insurance agency will have an anniversary cake in addition to the hot dogs and ice cream sundaes they are giving away to downtown patrons from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It’s our 25th anniversary so (daughter Carrie Reynolds) said let’s get a cake,” Mr. Galvez’s wife Maria said. “We also got a sundae machine and Alan will be out on the sidewalk grilling.”

The brainchild of Jack Reser and Alan Galvez, who have been spearheading the effort, Friday’s Customer Appreciation Day will allow more than a dozen businesses to connect with residents through sales, free food offerings and drawings.

“This is a nice way for people downtown to say ‘Thank you’ to our customers,” Mr. Reser, who owns Lee’s Comfort Shoes, said. “If it weren’t for the way the local community embraces our businesses, we wouldn’t be here today.”

The event actually began two years ago as a way for Mr. Galvez to give back to his customers and the community as a whole.

“We wanted to do something on our own to show our appreciation to the community,” Mr. Galvez’s wife, Maria said. “Sidewalk sales have kind of died out over the years, so we decided to cook out.”

And with talks of reorganizing downtown businesses — either under the banner of the Downtown Bellefontaine Partnership, an existing entity that has not been heavily active in recent years, or under a new banner — Mr. Reser and the Galvezes decided to get more businesses involved.

“When they decided to revive the Downtown Bellefontaine Partnership, they decided to make this into a community event,” Mrs. Galvez said.

During the event, which officially runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (but individual business owners can set hours for their events), numerous businesses will offer promotions or free food to guests.

At Galvez Insurance from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., patrons can get hot dogs, ice cream sundaes and cake, while Citizens Federal Savings and Loan, 110 N. Main St.,  is offering hot dogs, and many businesses like Lee’s Shoes are giving away cookies along with storewide sales.

At the Main Street Marketplace, building owner Jason Duff has invited Jennifer Wieland of the West Mansfield business JaNellie’s Gourmet Bakery to give away cookies from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., while businesses such as the Lock Shop and Mad River Knife & Supply will have drawings for items.

Other businesses such as Smith’s Jewelers, Belle Printing, Court House Square, Tanger’s Furniture, Peach Tree Books & Gifts, The Insurance Center, Unseen Elegance and the Education Station are also participating.

And as the activities take place, members of the cast of Windmill Productions’ Our Town will mill about the streets performing short scenes, production director Kris Swisher said. And at 1 p.m., the Holland Theatre will have a free showing of the Dr. Seuss movie, The Lorax.

This event, which is intended to reinspire the sidewalk sales of old, will not be the last though, the business leaders say.

In fact, a group is planning to meet the morning of Friday, June 21, to reorganize the association and set up an agenda.

“When the old Downtown Business Association gave way to the Downtown Bellefontaine Partnership, it worked well for a while, and then it didn’t,” Mr. Galvez said. “Our goal is to set up a new organization to change the DBP.

“This is our first real event as a new organization and we tried to make it an all-encompassing thing. I hope it all comes together and we can pull it off.”

Mr. Duff, who has driven much of the redevelopment of downtown through property investments, said he is encouraged by the business owners’ initiative to reform an association.

“The effort recently to reinvigorate the DBP is very important,” he said. “I see this as the first of many more events that involve downtown businesses.”

 

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